North Carolina Economic Development Guide


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38 North Carolina Economic Development Guide Cramer. Of the $1 billion invested in the region since 2010, $793 million was for advanced manufacturing, which created about 1,800 jobs. Linamar Corp., an Ontario, Canada-based manufacturer that makes precision metal components for vehicles, energy producers and other industries, led the way with three expansions, adding more than 800 jobs and investing $315 million in rural Arden. Cramer says smaller expansions and startups are more the norm in this neck of the woods. "If you think of the topography of our area, we're never going to be a Greenville-Spartanburg, because we simply aren't fl at enough." That South Carolina region is home to Munich-based BMW AG's largest automobile assembly plant. Cheap power and labor have made North Carolina a manufacturing leader for more than 125 years. Textiles, one of the state's pillar industries, continue in the North Carolina mountains. Glen Raven-based Glen Raven Mills Inc., founded in the 1880s, opened a Burnsville silk plant in 1952. It now produces space-age fabrics. "They've constantly reinvented themselves," says Wanda Profi tt, Yancey County's economic- development director. Mountain manufacturers' products include heavy truck bodies, emergency vehicles and hand tools. Others aren't destined for this planet. "Some of our products have space applications, whether in satellites or in applications for U.S.-based space programs, the European Space Agency and so forth," says Stephen Turpin, plant manager at Switzerland- based TE Connectivity Ltd.'s 284-employee, 140,000-square-foot factory in Fairview, southeast of Asheville. It dates to 1952, and one employee has been there nearly 60 years. TE makes hand- sized or smaller electronic relays, contacts and solenoids, some of which were installed on the Mars rover. Rolling along U.S. 74, it's about two hours from Asheville to Andrews, where TEAM Industries Inc. set up shop in 2005, choosing a 140,000-square-foot plant where blue jeans were made. About 100 employees machine and heat-treat metals to manufacture intricate gears for continuously variable transmissions and other parts. Cherokee County Economic- Development Director Josh Carpenter says it's the only TEAM plant beyond the fi ve that are nestled in the agricultural landscape around its Bagley, Minn., headquarters. "All our plants are located in small, rural areas, because our founder grew up on a farm, and it was always his dream to bring good jobs to small towns," says company spokesman Jason Rasmussen. The family farm included a blacksmith shop, and after World War II, the late Don Ricke, a Navy veteran, used his inherited metal-working talent to fashion the company. TEAM isn't the only advanced manufacturer in North Carolina's most western county. Moog Components Group, owned by East Aurora, N.Y.-based Moog Inc., has about 450 employees making solenoids and other equipment for aerospace, medical and similar high-tech industries. "Moog builds really advanced brushless motors," Carpenter says. "Some of the parts are tiny, assembled under microscopes, and they have a lot of robotics. This is the transition we're seeing in the workforce." In days past, its workers might have toiled in lower-wage textile jobs, but those began disappearing in the 1990s. That's when, he says, the North American Free Trade Agreement accelerated of shoring, which doomed many U.S. manufacturing plants, where labor costs were higher. Other advanced manufacturers in the county include Industrial Opportunities Inc., an Andrews nonprofi t with about 250 employees who make military vests, medical wear and other products under contract. Then there's Snap-on Inc. The Kenosha, Wis.-based company arrived in Murphy in 2002, says company spokesman Richard Secor, occupying a 168,000-square-foot plant last used by San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. It was a good fi t, and in coming years, lean manufacturing techniques squeezed more power tools from the same space in the same amount of time. It closed a similar plant in New England in 2007 and American Emergency Vehicles employs 283 in West Jef erson. Its president, Mark Van Arnam, says western North Carolina sets up perfect for manufacturers. Photos by Mike Belleme.

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